One year ago today – 14 June 2018 – there was an incident that no Rotarian in London will ever forget. It was a year ago today that the 24 storey Grenfell Tower block of flats caught fire. Rotary in London will leave the difficult issues to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the Westminster’s Coroners Court, and the various local and national bodies involved.
Rotary in London extends its most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the 72 residents who are no longer with us as a result of the fire, and its best wishes to the 221 survivors who escaped from the 129 flats in the tower block. It must not be overlooked that many of the surrounding residents in the area were also traumatised by the fire.
Rotary in London is working quietly in the background for the benefit of the community. We do not have limitless funds with which to achieve progress, but we do have plenty of time and energy that we can expend. There will be many more anniversaries of this tragedy, and each one can be marked by Rotary Service as a step towards the betterment of all concerned.
Preparations are well underway now for the Rotary Year 2018-2019 which starts on 01 July 2018.
Above we see half of the incoming Rotary Club Presidents for London attending the important training session held at the Rotary in London Headquarters in York Gate on 19 April 2018. This was an intensive mid-week evening event concentrating on the major issues that Rotary Clubs are dealing with.
Thanks to a little wizardry we were able to hear the World President for Rotary next year talk about the process of inspiring Rotarians to change the world, we heard from a millennial about the value millennials seek from Rotary, we learned about the new Rotary Vision, and were given a lesson on the meaning and value of the Rotary brand. We also heard from Bill Gates Jnr on the work his foundation is doing with Rotary in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
With discussions and breakout sessions, it was a worthwhile evening enjoyed by all who attended.
Rotarians from across London were at City Hall by Tower Bridge on Sunday 15 April 2018 in support of the London Challenge organised by the National Citizen Service (NCS).
The day revolved around the London Challenge – a go and find this in London and send back a photo from your phone – and a Debating and Discussion session exposing some of the differences between the different Commonwealth Countries represented.
The turn out for the event from the members of the Commonwealth Youth Forum was not quite as strong as hoped, but Rotary in London more than fulfilled its quota. It was also a chance to meet the Chief Executive of NCS, Michael Lynas, Chief Executive of Bite the Ballot Michael Sani, and Tim Hitchens, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Summit Unit. Judith Diment, Rotary International’s Representative to the Commonwealth was also there.
All told, it tested the Rotarians’ knowledge of where, when, and how, in Central London, but everyone found it a most enjoyable day.
On Sunday 8th October, Rotarians from across London met at the Barbican Underground Station for a walk through “Disastrous London”, a stroll including two famous pubs.
Our walk took us through Charterhouse Square (photo above) where we saw a model of the original enormous abbey that existed there, and learned about the lives of four famous Londoners from the Middle Ages.
We then moved on to Smithfield Market and learned about the origins of the name, and the martyrs who were put to death there. We also saw where William Wallace was put to death and we saw the effect that the plague had on the churchyard of St Bartholomew (right). Our spell in 14th Century was interrupted by a film crew who were filming close to the old Barts Hospital, where television viewers saw Sherlock Holmes jump from the roof!
Our excellent guide then took us to the Cutlers Hall via the Central Criminal Court and the former Newgate Prison which features in Charles Dickens’ works, and so we progressed from Ave Maria Lane to Creed Lane and refreshment at the Cockpit pub, once owned by William Shakespeare.
Our stroll then continued towards Blackfriars Bridge, and the Blackfriars Pub with its superb hand beaten copper panels – a delightful place at which to end our walk. Our organiser and our guide both received sustained applause for this great walk.
The Rotary Club of Kensington and Chelsea was featured on German Television on 20 August 2017.
The Club featured in the EuropaMagazin programme broadcast on the Das Erste channel reporting on the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the wealth differences in the local community and how the community was coping with the disaster.
A local resident was interviewed, and a community social worker before the reporter turned to the local Rotary Club, meeting in a nearby hotel. Rotary was shown as an organisation concerned with the problems in the community and doing work that was needed by the residents. Whilst the reporter emphasised the differences of wealth in the community, Rotary emphasised that everyone – regardless of their wealth – was willing to do their bit.
Well done Kensington and Chelsea – next time it will hopefully be a UK television channel.
The Rotary Club of London Centenary held a meeting on 10 August 2017 that may have been an opportunity to visit the future of Rotary Clubs around the world. London Centenary is an e-Club and meets regularly on the Internet using the free Zoom software. The atmosphere is comparatively informal and it is up to the individuals attending as to whether or not there is a meal!
Their speaker on that evening was the President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, Denis Spiller, who was putting his many years of experience in the IT industry to good use (outlined in green above). President Denis spoke about the many initiatives starting this Rotary Year including People of Action, The RIBI Conference in Torquay and the move from Polio Teddy Bears to Polio Old Bangers! He fielded many questions including the development of an e-Club for Rotaractors (aged 18-30), the size of Districts and the effect of size on their meetings, the need for a world directory of e-Clubs, and a major Public Image initiative planned for January 2018.
With Club Members and visitors attending from (in alphabetical order) Canada, Canary Islands, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Nepal, Sweden and Zimbabwe, this was a truly international Rotary meeting and was thoroughly enjoyed by all those attending.
As more and more new Rotarians find that time is at a premium, and that travelling time even on short journeys becomes more and more extended, this may have been a sneak preview into the future of Rotary around the world.
The Rotary in London Helivan was handed over on 23 June 2017, as the Rotary Year was coming to a close.
After a year of hard work fundraising, with Past District Governor Trevor Johnson acting as Project Manager, the London District Governor Helen Antoniou had the privilege of handing over the ‘Helivan’ purchased for London’s Air Ambulance (LAA) with funds raised by the Rotary Clubs in London.
In the photo are (left to right) Sara Jane Woods – LAA Head of Community Fundraising and Outreach, Mark Wingett – Actor and TV Star, Mark Davies – LAA Director of Development, District Governor Helen Antoniou, and Doctor Michael Kim wearing his LAA uniform.
District Governor Helen said, “The total funds raised of £38,000 for this high profile project is a wonderful achievement, and demonstrates just how effective Rotary is in the 21st Century for our capital city. After this, we will continue to move forward to a bright future for the Rotary Clubs in London”.
The Helivan will be used to promote the work of London’s Air Ambulance, and to encourage children and students to move towards a career in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM subjects). At the same time it will promote all the Rotary Clubs in London and their work in the community.
District Governor Helen (third from right) gave up part of her Bank Holiday Monday to help load a vehicle taking aid to the Revival Centre in Chernihiv in North Ukraine. The Revival Centre provides treatment for children with mental or genetic disability and specialises in the care of those who have inherited disorders resulting from the Chernobyl disaster.
The van pictured is one of three that take aid to Ukraine four times a year. The Rotarians in the Rotary Club of Northwick Park assemble items of aid which are taken by UK-AID (also known as Felsted Aid for Deprived Children). Current requirements are for Children’s Clothing, Toiletries, Nappies, Children’s Shoes, Adult Shoes and Adult Winter Coats.
If you have items for shipment, or are willing to provide items, the next convoy leaves on 6 October 2016. Your items can be collected – if it is a good load – or can be dropped off to a member of the Rotary Club of Northwick Park.
The van in the picture was purchased by Rotarians across London in September 2012.
On 23 August 2016, Rotarians from London and Members of the District Team, led by our District Governor Helen, travelled to Hayes Park in West London, home of Kraft Heinz in Hayes, for a Meal Packing Event hosted by Stop Hunger Now – a US Charity that aims to ensure that everyone on the planet has enough to eat every day by 2030.
The meals that were packed are all based on rice, dried soya mixed with vegetables, and lentils supported by a vitamin supplement to ensure adequate nutrition for the recipients. The goal set by Stop Hunger Now of 100,000 meals being packed in 3 x 2.5 hour shifts was achieved with a few minutes to spare. See the video at: https://youtu.be/IGuw2vJbAsA
The project was strongly supported by volunteers from Kraft Heinz working on their Corporate Social Responsibility agenda as well as Rotarians from across London. At the end of the day, the meals will be shipped to a Stop Hunger Now partner in Kibera, Kenya. Each packed meal contains about 1,500 calories – that is 250 calories per person when shared between 6. 250 Calories may not seem like much, but when you have little or nothing to eat, it seems like a large meal!
At our District Council Meeting on 13 July 2016, we were given an inspirational talk by Ella, who had been on a one-year Youth Exchange visit to Brazil, an experience which had opened her mind.
Interviewed by our District Youth Exchange Officer, Di King, Ella had last visited the District Council in July 2015, when she was about to set off for her year-long trip. At that time she appeared with a blazer, and was given her first badge to wear on it. When she appeared this time, all the blazer was covered in badges, some from the Rotary Clubs she had visited during the year, and some from the fellow Youth Exchange students from other countries around the world that she had met in Brazil.
Ella described that it was difficult at the start, living in a foreign country, speaking Portuguese, and living in a strange family. She also confessed to being a little homesick. But with school and with her fellow Youth Exchange students that soon passed.
The best time in the year was the time she spent with her fellow Youth Exchange students. But it was her description of how she had changed in the year that moved the Rotarians the most. She described that she had learned who she was, and in the process had become more confident and more comfortable with herself, even when it came to addressing large audiences like us. She now has a second language in which she can communicate fluently, and that helped her gain new perspectives and made her more open-minded to change and new ideas.
She finished by saying the same words as Ban Ki Moon said to the Rotary International Convention in Seoul, “Thank you very much!”